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Belmont’s plan to reduce vehicle emissions

As Belmont University promotes sustainability, the administration is focusing more on reducing vehicle emissions.

One of the major ideas the administration is working toward is trying to reduce the number of vehicles on campus.

“It’s much more practical these days to not bring a car,” said Pat Cunningham, chief of campus security.

Some of the University’s completed initiatives include free public transportation for students, charging stations for electric cars, more bike racks, a ride-share program, carpools to sporting events and the switching of security’s patrol cars to hybrid vehicles. Aside from the switching of campus security vehicles, all other programs encourage sustainable practices for students to participate in.

However, the most challenging initiative is teaching students why they don’t need a car on campus.

Belmont’s sustainability committee is “always soliciting ideas” for improvements, but the biggest hindrance to sustainability is the lack of student awareness, said Dr. Todd Lake, vice president for spiritual development and chair of Belmont’s sustainability committee.

To combat this, Cunningham is taking a more proactive approach when discussing transportation resources to incoming students.

“One of the things we’ve done … is to include that as one of the talking points during Towering Traditions with parents and students about whether or not they need to bring a car to campus,” he said.

Jason Rogers, vice president for administration, oversees the transportation department of Belmont’s sustainability committee.

Reducing vehicle emissions is not only valued by Belmont; it’s also a high priority for the city, says Rogers.

Rogers works with local government and elected city officials to collaborate on transportation and become a good neighbor to Belmont’s surrounding community, he said.

“There’s a certain degree of pride that is associated with being a part of a community that is forward-looking enough to do something like this,” said Rogers.

According to a report from Environment America, a branch operating under The Public Interest Network, “transportation accounts for 30 percent of energy demand in the U.S., and surpassed electricity generation as the leading source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.”

While parking issues 10 years ago drove the initial focus on transportation, Rogers said his main concern is educating incoming parents and students about the benefits of not having a car on campus.

“Because we have a turnover in our student population of roughly 25 percent every year, there’s always the challenge of educating people about what the benefits are and what the opportunities are,” said Rogers.

Transportation is one of five areas the sustainability committee oversees, with its main goal being to increase the amount of students on campus without increasing the campus’s carbon footprint.

Reducing vehicle emissions on campus is one of the largest contributions Belmont can make in reducing its carbon footprint, Rogers said.

Samantha Rodriguez, president of Belmont’s ecology club, agrees.

“Our big thing is spreading awareness,” said Rodriguez.

Through events like the Bruin Link Fair and the Club Fair that Belmont hosts, the eco-club has acquired over 300 students who are routinely updated on all the sustainability initiatives.

Rodriguez hopes the ecology club will create a ripple effect throughout campus. But if Belmont is going to reduce its carbon footprint, it needs people participating and aware, she said.

It needs “people coming together.”

This article by Henry Gregson.

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